Thanks to enthusiastic community support, two playful puppies are now in training to be the Reynoldsburg Police Department's first K-9 unit in more than a decade.
Donations so far amount to $15,000.
Safety Director Jim Mosic said the idea to create a K-9 unit came from an inquiry he made shortly after he was hired in August 2017.
"I asked officers how we could move our program forward," he said. "One of the suggestions was a K-9 program. The officers put together a proposal showing how many times we utilized outside agency K-9s, and it was sufficient enough to warrant exploring having a K-9 unit of our own."
The cost would be at least $25,000, however, which is not in the department budget. So officers set up a GoFundMe page.
Public donations poured in, including $1,000 from Kroger; $2,000 from Beany's Auto Service Center as it celebrated 40 years in Reynoldsburg; $2,000 from Reynoldsburg police officers and $1,000 from the RPD Auxiliary Police Force.
Then Ryan Venturine, founder and CEO of MWDK-9 in Marysville, donated two Belgian Malinois puppies for the program.
"Both K-9s are in training through the company and are currently four months old," police Lt. Ron Wright said.
He said MWDK-9 would be working with the department's chosen K-9 handlers and the puppies to prepare them for a certification course.
Mosic said the dogs will be trained as "dual-purpose K-9s."
"They will be trained as patrol dogs that can also detect narcotics," he said. "They can be utilized to search for missing persons and fleeing suspects, for handler protection and could discover discarded evidence."
He said the dogs will be trained "to be very social."
"They would be able to interact at community events and help in our community outreach," he said.
"There are many benefits to a K-9 unit: They are another tool to enable us to accomplish our mission, which includes building relationships with the community and assisting in removing narcotics from our community."
Mosic said the department had a K-9 unit in the past, but that was more than 15 years ago.
"Other agencies close to us that currently have K-9s are Whitehall and Pataskala," he said.
Police Chief David Plesich said he is in the process of choosing which officers will work with the canines.
"That decision should be made in the next couple of weeks," he said. "Several officers have applied for the two spots."
He wholeheartedly endorses the program.
"This program is very much needed as part of our comprehensive response to the opiate issue," Plesich said. "We aim to decrease the supply of illegal drugs in our city."
He said the department's Special Investigations Unit is at the forefront of that effort, focusing on drugs and theft.
"Sgt. Mike Binder was recently named to head up the SIU and he is a proponent of the use of canines in our efforts," Plesich said.
"In addition, the dog is an excellent tool for our patrol officers to allow us to track missing persons, wanted suspects, even property," he said. "We often borrow canines from other jurisdictions, so we are confident we will use these new canine officers often."
Mosic said donations are still needed.
"Now that we have two dogs, we need to equip two cruisers with the K-9 equipment and there may be expenses associated with sending two officers and the K-9s for certification," he said. "All donations go strictly toward the K-9 program."
Donations can be made at https://tinyurl.com/ybwvna8x
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